Treatment - Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency - How Is Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency Treated?

Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency has no cure, but its related lung diseases have many treatments. Most of these treatments are the same as the ones used for a lung disease called COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

If you have symptoms related to AAT deficiency, your doctor may recommend:

  • Medicines called inhaled bronchodilators (brong-ko-di-LA-tors) and inhaled steroids. These medicines help open your airways and make breathing easier. They also are used to treat asthma and COPD.
  • Flu and pneumococcal (noo-mo-KOK-al) vaccines to protect you from illnesses that could make your condition worse. Prompt treatment of lung infections also can help protect your lungs.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation (rehab). Rehab involves treatment by a team of experts at a special clinic. In rehab, you'll learn how to manage your condition and function at your best.
  • Extra oxygen, if needed.
  • A lung transplant. A lung transplant may be an option if you have severe breathing problems. If you have a good chance of surviving the transplant surgery, you may be a candidate for it.

Augmentation (og-men-TA-shun) therapy is a treatment used only for people who have AAT-related lung diseases. This therapy involves getting infusions of the AAT protein. The infusions raise the level of the protein in your blood and lungs.

Not enough research has been done to show how well this therapy works. However, some research suggests that this therapy may slow the development of AAT deficiency in people who don't have severe disease.

People who have AAT deficiency and develop related liver or skin diseases will be referred to doctors who treat those diseases.

Future Treatments

Researchers are working on possible treatments that will target the faulty AAT genes and replace them with healthy genes. These treatments are in the early stages of development.

Researchers also are studying therapies that will help misshapen AAT proteins move from the liver into the bloodstream. They're also studying a type of augmentation therapy in which the AAT protein is inhaled instead of injected into a vein.

If you're interested in new treatments, ask your doctor about ongoing clinical trials for AAT deficiency.